Egypt: Blocking news websites violates the constitution and international obligations

ARTICLE 19 is concerned by the unprecedented situation of restrictions on freedom of the press and the free flow of information in Egypt, following the announcement by the Egyptian state-run news agency, Mena, on 24 May 2017 that the Egyptian authorities had blocked 21 news websites.

The blocking included Egyptian news websites known for criticizing authorities such as Mada Masr, and the websites of foreign outlets such as Al Jazeera, Huffpost Arabi and Al Sharq TV.

“Recent blocking measures indicate a continuing and serious deterioration of media freedoms and reflect a decline in human rights in general in Egypt, where the authorities have so far ignoredthe warnings of local and international human rights organizations,” said Saloua Ghazouani, director of ARTICLE 19 Middle East and North Africa.

“The blocking measures are further evidence that the authorities tolerate only the voices that support the regime and are silent about its serious human rights abuses,” stated Ghazouani.

The blocking measures violate the Egyptian Constitution of 2014 and also Egypt’s international obligations as a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Article 70 of the Egyptian Constitution states that “Freedom of the press, printing and paper, visual, audio and electronic publication is guaranteed.” Article 71 states that “It is prohibited to censor, confiscate, suspend or shut down Egyptian newspapers and media outlets in any way.”

In recent years, Egypt’s rankings in the World Press Freedom Index, prepared by Reporters Without Borders, have been steadily deteriorating. In 2017, Egypt is on the “blacklist” of countries where the situation for freedom of expression is “very dangerous,” with journalists jailed or detained for long periods.

In 2017, Egypt ranked 161 out of the 180 countries included in the report, down from 159 in 2016 to 158 in 2015.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Egyptian authorities to restore access to the 21 news websites and ensure access to information through a free and independent media for all in Egypt.